Back in Time: In 1927, filmgoers and critics fell in love with Billie Dove

Schenectady movie fans crowded the State Theater on Thursday, Aug. 25, 1927, to watch Billie Dove (t

Billie Dove was capable, charming and gorgeous.

And she was finally a big Hollywood star.

Schenectady movie fans crowded the State Theater on Thursday, Aug. 25, 1927, to watch Billie (the former Lillian Bohny of New York City) in her first starring film role. “The Stolen Bride” was a silent thriller, with a corny romance at its core. The 24-year-old Billie played Princess Sari, a Hungarian princess sent to America to finish her studies. Once in school, the princess meets one of her countrymen — a peasant (played by Lloyd Hughes) who has always had secret, passionate plans for her. They fall in love, and foul up the scheduled royal wedding back home.

“Miss Dove, who is decidedly not a flapper nor a ‘clinging vine,’ proves to be a mature and beautiful woman with a distinctive personality, a type that has been virtually overlooked in moving pictures,” read the review published in the Schenectady Gazette.

Another review read that the movie was an ideal picture for Billie. “Her dramatic and moving performance more than confirms the judgment of the producer in advancing her to stardom,” a critic crowed.

Movie fans, men especially, were crazy about Billie. She became known as “The American Beauty,” the title of another one of her films released later in 1927. The silents were on the way out; the first talking picture, “The Jazz Singer,” was released during the fall of ’27.

The “Beauty” made it to the talkies, but did not stick around sets and studios for long. She retired from movies in 1932. Historians say Dove led a dramatic life off the stage. She lived with millionaire Howard Hughes during the 1930s.

She was offered a role in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind,” but turned it down. Singer Eleanora Fagan was so taken with the actress she changed her first name to “Billie” as a nod to her idol and performed professionally as Billie Holiday.

People today can have trouble finding Dove’s films. Here’s why — most of her work was destroyed in a studio fire. Dove died in 1997 at 94.

Categories: Life and Arts

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